‘Today was revenge’: De Minaur makes good on Davis Cup promise to crush Italian, Storm builds momentum
Aussies Alex de Minaur and Storm Hunter have powered into the Australian Open third round at Melbourne Park.
A man on a mission, de Minaur crushed Italian Matteo Arnaldi 6-3 6-0 6-3 in bang on two hours on Wednesday to storm into the last 32 of his home grand slam for a fifth straight time.
Doubles specialist Hunter won her first ever AO singles main draw match in the opening round and followed it up with a gutsy 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 over German Laura Siegemund.
In a reflection of the world No.10’s heady new levels, de Minaur’s clinical victory over the 41st-ranked Arnaldi was his most one-sided yet in 21 Open matches since debuting in 2016.
The heavy defeat was also in stark contrast to his flat first-round win over Milos Raonic, when de Minaur advanced after the big-serving Canadian retired at one-set apiece with a hip flexor injury.
De Minaur next faces either Italian qualifier Flavio Cobolli or Russian world No.65 Pavel Kotov for a spot in the last 16, with the former having taken out the other seed in the Australian’s section, Nicolas Jarry, in the first round.
“Hopefully they play for five hours today!” de Minaur joked after his victory.
Still unbeaten this year after opening the season with head-turning wins over Djokovic, Alexander Zverev, Taylor Fritz and an exhibition defeat of Carlos Alcaraz, de Minaur will be a hot favourite to continue his run.
Speaking to Nine’s Jim Courier after the match, the 24-year old was ‘very happy’ with his clinical performance.
“Matteo is a hell of a player – very exciting player, has a lot of firepower,” he said.
“I thought I just had to be solid here, use the crowd, try to stay focused. I’m very happy to get the win today.
The fiercely patriotic baseliner promised to exact revenge on Arnaldi for the 22-year-old sealing victory over Australia in last year’s Davis Cup final with his decisive win over Alexei Popyrin.
And the revenge was served cold, with de Minaur ruthlessly reeling off 10 successive games mid-match to blow the second-round encounter open.
“It’s no secret, it was heartbreaking at the end of the year losing to Italy in the Davis Cup final,” de Minaur said.
“But I told the boys, we’re going to be back there. We’re going to get another chance. Today was a little bit of revenge for Australia.”
The win was characterised by some trademark de Minaur defence, with commentators Courier and Todd Woodbridge frequently in awe of his ability to keep the ball live.
“De Minaur is a flat out point thief,” Courier said late in the match.
“He’s here, he’s there, he’s everywhere! Just blanketing the court. Look at him. Faking like he was going in there. Has to half volley that, when he’s in trouble. No, he’s not in trouble. He’s in charge now.”
After a hard-fought first set, de Minaur quickly took control to win 11 consecutive games, including a second set bagel, to look set to cruise to victory.
However, Arnaldi wouldn’t be quite so easy to conquer, breaking back in the third set after a 28-shot rally to force de Minaur to get back to his best to see off the hard-hitting Italian’s threat.
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Through to the third round for the fifth time in the last six Australian Opens, de Minaur’s next target is to make it three consecutive fourth-round appearances at Melbourne Park.
But in career-best form, a first men’s grand slam quarter-final berth since Nick Kyrgios in 2015 is well within reach.
Meanwhile, Hunter’s unlikely singles renaissance has continued, with the Australian dispatching her doubles nemesis Laua Siegemund to surge into the Australian Open third round.
After a decade of toil, Hunter finally claimed her maiden Open singles victory on Monday and backed that up two days later with a hard-fought win over the German veteran.
Hunter ended 2023 as the world’s No.1 ranked doubles player, with Siegemund one of the few to recently get the better of the Australian with wins at the season-ending WTA Finals in Mexico and the United Cup semis earlier this month in Sydney.
The German’s singles ranking of 78 is also more than 100 spots better than Hunter’s, but that disparity counted for nothing on Wednesday in front of a parochial crowd on John Cain Arena.
The first set was an unusual affair, with the first seven games all involving breaks of serve.
Hunter finally snapped the sequence in the eighth game, only for Siegemund to also hold for the first time.
But the Australian kept her nerve from 0-30 down in the 10th game, reeling off four straight points to take the opener 6-4.
Siegemund hit back hard in the second set, coming back from an early break down to force the contest into a decider.
The Australian grabbed the crucial final break in the eighth game of the decider and successfully served out the match in two hours and 21 minutes.
Hunter’s third-round opponent will be Seigemund’s regular doubles partner Barbora Krejcikova from the Czech Republic, who made short work of Germany’s Tamara Korpatsch 6-2 6-2.
The only other Australian still in the women’s singles draw is Ajla Tomljanovic, who plays Latvia’s 2017 French Open champ Jelena Ostapenko in the second round on Thursday.